Wednesday, August 31, 2011

News That Is Not News: Our Sinking Standards

I sometimes wonder which news outlet is the most craptastic. It seems that the definition of what qualifies as newsworthy on the major media outlets has been on a downward slide for a long time. We may not have reached the bottom yet. But we appear to be getting close. It’s disgusting to see this garbage pass for news in America, a country where the freedom of the press has always been valued.

Consider today’s headlines…

MSNBC, as usual, continues its practice of borrowing news from other outlets and not bothering to provide links to the original source. This tactic gives the impression that MSNBC did the work, rather than plagiarizing. And perhaps it hides just how many media outlets are not truly independent, but rather are connected under the umbrella of MSNBC’s ownership. Either way, it’s not good journalism. And it’s not the pursuit of truth.

The article I have in mind, if you want to look it up, is “Airlines That Garner the Most Complaints,” written by Everett Potter for Travel and Leisure Online. Potter is credited for the work, which is good. But the heart of the article is a list of the airlines and their rankings, which isn’t provided. It’s found in the original article, which is found here, if you want to read it.

Unfortunately, if you turn to CNN for better quality coverage, you’re in for a disappointment. Among its features for today are videos of a Malaysian pastor in a same-sex marriage (who cares?), Daryl Hannah arrested at a protest (who cares?), and a dieter who lost 27 pounds on a Twinkie diet (I’m grossed out and wish that picture wasn’t stuck in my mind now.)

Sure, CNN covers other news too. But the most important stories get lost in the long list of words at the bottom of the site. By contrast, controversy and weird news are promoted with pictures that catch a reader’s attention. Yes, I know a website has to capture attention. But I don’t have to like it, especially on a news site.

And finally, we get to FoxNews. I’ve known them to post some lurid topics on their page. Today, they seem rather mild. Perhaps they are attempting to distance themselves from Rupert Murdoch and the phone-hacking scandal in England. FoxNews appears to be on their good behavior for the moment.

Although they’re not above using a misleading title to catch attention. After all, what would you think if you saw the headline: “iPhone Killer Appears in U.S.” You’d think there is some kind of serial murderer on the run. And you’d click on the story to find that it’s about a Samsung smartphone. Yes, some in the industry are calling this new phone the “iPhone killer,” but really, who outside the industry would know that or care? The headline is misleading.

It’s unfortunate that in a day when so much information is available to so many people, the quality of information is sinking to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t have to be this way. People are remarkably adaptable. We can learn to come up to a higher level. But that takes work. And perhaps that is the real problem here. No one seems to think it’s worth it to maintain the highest standards of the information we share. It’s much easier to borrow the work of others, invest little of our own effort, and pander to the crowd.

But in the end, all we will have is a nation of deceived fools, who think they are well-informed while they actually know nothing. I wonder if that’s the way we all like it.

Copyright 2011 (c) by Michele Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.